Mission Possible Through Music

With Tom Cruise and “Mission: Impossible III” making news around the globe, I spent an enjoyable evening on Wednesday on stage at the L.A. Music Center’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion introducing and interviewing stars, including the original “Mission Impossible’s” Jim Phelps, as played by Peter Graves. The actor was in the series from 1967-1973, and then brought back for the series’ 1988-1990 stand — with Graves  now white-haired and handsomely-so. He talked affectionately about the series and yes, he’s seen the first two feature versions. (The third bows next week and he’ll probably see it also.)  He believes his TV series had far more thought action than physical and, of course there’s a helluva difference between the budget of a TV show of that era and the $200 million-budget of the latest “M.I.”   Graves  was one of the batoneers in the annual celebrity Battle of Batons, conducting the 110 musicians in the junior philharmonic orchestra’s 69th Anniversary Concert Spectacular. It is headed by its founder-conductor Dr. Ernst Katz and the “Spectacular” was presented by the Smith Barney Citigroup. Gary Green was concertmaster-conductor-producer and Lori Gordon was coordinator of the gala, which played to an SRO house of 3180. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa continued the tradition launched by Mayor Fletcher Bowron, by opening the evening.

There was more to remember with each guest batoneer. F’rinstance, I asked Linda Gray, who was J.R.’s wife Sue Ellen on “Dallas” from 1978-1989, what were her thoughts about the fact  the popular ’80s soap opera was going to be made as a feature movie with John Travolta as J.R. and Jennifer Lopez as Sue Ellen? Linda politely refrained from giving me a quote — but the expression on her face was worth more than a thousand words. We both laughed. She did however, find it strange that the show would film in  Florida  rather than in  Texas.

Another batoneer was Beverly Garland, who has spanned TV series from  “My Three Sons” to “7th Heaven.”  Her song to conduct was appropriate — “Hooray for  Hollywood.”

June Lockhart was party to a first for the symphony as she conducted the song, “The World Is Waiting for the Sunrise,” written by her father, Eugne Lockhart. It had never before been orchestrated for a symphony.

Gavin MacLeod donned his captain’s hat to baton John Philip Sousa’s “Washington Post March.” He was captain of “The Love Boat” and admitted that the role has won him a 20-year job (so far!) as ambassador for Princess Cruises, which has grown from one-ship in the series to an ever-growing fleet.

Two TV newsmen-batoneers, Carlos Amezcua of KTLA, and  Mark Kriski of Channel 5, rounded out the contestants with Amezcus winning the grand prize — a golden baton. 

Florence Henderson, who earlier in the program had sung excerpts from “The Sound of Music, “assisted me in getting the audience’s vociferous voting choice. Wink Martindale hosted the decades-spanning evening.